Banjo Nickaru and Western Scooches, plus Blue Yonder

Visit Banjo Nickaru and Western Scooches, plus Blue Yonder on the web!

“Unfailingly high-spirited.” – London Times

“This is a band that must be heard to be believed!” – John Platt WFUV

“A heart as big as the sky…full of high energy and higher spirits.” -Elmore Magazine

Banjo Nickaru and Western Scooches are a collective that expands and contracts, sometimes playing with as many as 8 members, and often playing as a duo, trio, or quartet, with Betina Hershey (songwriter, guitar, vocals) and Nick Russo (fretted instruments) being the core duo.

We play an eclectic mix of country, bluegrass, western swing, rockabilly, blues, traditional jazz, dixieland, old-time music, folk, roots music & Americana. Our band members also play in Hot Jazz Jumpers. Hot Jazz Jumpers perform Gullah-Geechee influenced 20s/30s jazz, music of New Orleans, country, bluegrass, blues, folk, originals and world music.

Nick Russo leads the charge as bandleader, playing an assortment of fretted instruments, including banjo, resonator, guitar, electric bass plus organ, Rhodes and harmonium. Russo had the honor to play with Sir Paul McCartney while performing at Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin’s home. Nick has performed on ABC’s “Good Morning America” and appears in the Sam Mendes film Away We Go and PSB Masterpiece, The Chaperone.

Betina Hershey (vocalist, guitarist, composer) has appeared as a principal dancer in Disney’s Enchanted and Mona Lisa Smile with Julia Roberts. Hershey performed on international and national tours of Broadway shows including “West Side Story” and “Phantom of the Opera.” Betina’s in-demand original children’s musicals have been published and continuously performed nationally and internationally.

Emiliano Valerio (cajón/percussion) is a highly regarded musician who studied Afro-Cuban percussion at La Escuela Nacional de Arte in Havana, Cuba before further training with Puerto Rican jazz great Giovanni Hidalgo. He also founded Nueva Siembra, a 15-piece Latin band, composed Jackson Heights Suite, for string quartet, was musical director/percussionist/guitarist for the OBIE Award winning Off-Broadway show Tap Dogs, and is a tabla disciple of virtuoso Pandit Samir Chatterjee.

Gullah-Geechee percussionist and composer – Dr. David Pleasant has performed with Wynton Marsalis, Paul Simon, Cecil Taylor and many others. David also performed on Nickelodeon, TED talks, ABC with Ted Koppel, Broadway, and all around the world.

Rounding out the band is Miles Griffith. His non-traditional use of the voice as a percussive instrument, combined with an uncanny harmonic sense has made him a prime choice. He is a composer and has performed with Max Roach, Reggie Workman, T.S. Monk, Barry Harris and others. He played the lead role in Wynton Marsalis’ jazz oratorio ”Blood On The Fields,” which premiered at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall.

Charleston, WV’s Blue Yonder is an acoustic honky-tonk trio that deftly navigates classic Country blues, hard-driving Western swing, toe-tapping Rockabilly, and rueful Appalachia with equal aplomb. Led by singer/lyricist John Lilly, renown for starring in the Hank Williams production, The Lost Show, which has run annually in Charleston for the past 18 years, the band’s original material and razor sharp musicianship flashes echoes of Williams, Jimmie Rodgers, Bob Willis, Asleep At The Wheel and early 70s Grateful Dead. Two-time national flat-picking champion Robert Shafer and upright bassist Will Carter, known for his work with the contra dance band, The Contrarians, round out the core trio, which often expands to a quintet with drums and pedal steel.

“Blue Yonder is a serious West Virginia treasure.” – Vince Herman, Leftover Salmon

“Hard-driving Western Swing filled with lots of tasteful steel guitar.” — Bluegrass

“Best Roots Music Albums of 2018. Ready for prime time on the Americana charts.” — Amos Perrine, No Depression